UTSA’s Medical Humanities Program was launched in 2016. The program offers an interdisciplinary approach to medicine and health care. Sherife Tekin, associate professor of philosophy, has been serving as program director since 2021 and is working to further build the program through new programs and partnerships.
Of note is the $182,000 grant for undergraduate international studies and foreign language programs the program received this year from the US Department of Education. Tekin explained that the grant will help internationalize the program and allow students to participate in study abroad programs and field studies, which will give them international exposure. The curriculum of the program will also be varied.
The grant will further help establish the Vocalize San Antonio program, through which students can intern as medical interpreters in clinics throughout San Antonio and South Texas.
This opportunity is one of several that students in the program are encouraged to participate in. In addition, the program also offers students internship opportunities to gain practical experience in the medical field.
“They get course credit, but their internship involves going and actually doing something in a hospital or working as a scribe or working as a medical interpreter … so [students] they have practical experience with patients, but also dealing with patients“, said Tekin.
Tekin also helped develop the Medical Humanities Club, which connects students and faculty outside of the classroom.
“I want to have as much time with the students as I can and I want the faculty to have a lot of interaction with the students outside of class as well because, at an institution like UTSA, our students do so well with really close mentoring from faculty who know the system and who know how to moves in the system,” Tekin said.
Moreover, under Tekin, the program also established a partnership with University of Oxford Collaborating Center for Health and Social Care, giving students greater exposure to the discipline. Tekin also noted that a partnership is underway with a university in Belgium, which will soon begin its medical humanities program.
In addition to these opportunities, students take classes in the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities on topics such as ethics and philosophy of science. Students also take language classes — a skill Tekin describes as important in the context of making health care accessible.
“In the context of health care, we have work to do [vulnerable] people,” Tekin said. “An interesting component of that relationship for me is the building of trust between the patient and the caregiver.” [or] health professional. Keeping this in mind, [we want students] to have scientifically rigorous training to become good service providers, but [we also want them to be] able to get [the] patient trust [and] connect with them emotionally.”
While the medical humanities weave their way into the rigorous training that medical school students receive, UTSA offers this interdisciplinary approach to its undergraduates, which Tekin describes as a “huge plus” for students in the program.
As mentioned earlier, the program aims to train students holistically, exposing them to the humanistic aspects of health care. Currently, the program offers students three concentrations: the Pre-Medical Track, the Health Careers Track, and the Advanced Practice Services Track. Students enrolled in the program have the flexibility to choose the path that best suits their needs. Tekin also initiated the addition of a medical humanities minor.
Students graduating from the program have gone on to pursue a variety of career paths, including medical school and graduate school, as well as business and law.
“I think the degree is very flexible and students have a lot of options … as we get more and more graduates who are in a good position.” [graduate] programs … it’s kind of talked about,” Tekin said.
““I think there’s a big push, at least in the … fields of the humanities, to make the study of philosophy or history or language more relevant to everyday life, and I think healthcare provides those opportunities,” Tekin added.
More information about UTSA’s medical humanities program can be found at https://future.utsa.edu/programs/undergraduate/medical-humanities/.